In response to the misconduct allegations that led White House physician Ronny Jackson to withdraw his nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, the White House has insisted that he was adequately vetted and there’s no evidence to back up the claims. President Trump has even threatened Senator Jon Tester for releasing a summary of the allegations the Veterans’ Affairs Committee received from more than 20 people.
But now CNN reports that top White House officials were already aware that there were concerns about Jackson’s behavior because another physician complained about his conduct regarding Second Lady Karen Pence. Vice-President Mike Pence’s doctor was so alarmed by the incident that he wrote three memos and reported it up the chain of command, all the way to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The memos allege that on September 8, 2017, Karen Pence had to be taken from Camp David to Walter Reed Hospital due to an undisclosed medical issue. Pence’s physician, who CNN agreed not to identify, said that while Jackson is responsible for caring for Trump, he intervened in the situation with Karen Pence, leading to “an inadvertent disclosure of SLOTUS’s medical information in a situation where ultimate discretion was of utmost importance.”
The memos go on to allege that Jackson briefed “multiple parties” on the White House staff “without specific consultation from the physician to the vice-president,” which may have disclosed Pence’s private medical information.
Karen Pence asked her doctor to tell the VP’s top aide, Nick Ayers, about the incident, and have him relay the information to Kelly. The physician said he briefed Ayers about the “breach of her patient information” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Ayers informed Kelly and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, and they said the doctor should report it through the usual medical and military chain of command.
The VP’s physician said Jackson told him “it is not always possible to adhere to HIPAA at the White House,” and argued that “he must be involved” in any medical issues that arise at Camp David. He said Jackson confronted him after he raised concerns about the breach and was “intimidating” and “aggressive.” The doctor said Jackson told him to “let things go … if I am to succeed in my career.”
White House staffers were reportedly caught off guard when Trump tweeted that he wanted his personal physician to lead the VA, but if true this would mark the second time that the White House defended a staffer against misconduct allegations top officials heard about months earlier. As with the claims against White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, a source said Kelly and other top staffers were provided with the memos about Jackson in the fall.
Tom Crosson, a Defense Department spokesperson, said Monday that the Pentagon’s inspector general has received the allegations and is looking into the issue further to see if a formal probe is necessary. The office, he added, “is assessing what investigations and reviews have already been conducted related to these issues, any jurisdictional issues that may relate to the allegations, and the scope of the allegations and complaints related to these issues.”
While it was reported on Sunday that Jackson will no longer serve as Trump’s physician, the White House walked that back on Monday, saying he’s still on active duty and “there are no personnel announcements at this time.”